Teaches extension from the ground up, lengthens the side waist, strengthens arms and shoulders.
1. From standing, bring the balls of the feet to touch, leaving a narrow space between your heels. Ground down through the four corners of each foot. Lift and spread your toes—this will help you lift your arches and inner ankles and get a sense of where your midline is. Then engage your quadriceps. Maintain the lift in your arches and legs as you release your toes down.
2. Neutralize your pelvis by anchoring the tailbone toward your heels and moving the tops of the buttocks down. This helps prevent an exaggerated curve in the lumbar spine and keeps the lower front ribs from splaying out, which can interfere with maintaining a strong line of extension in both Upward Salute and Handstand.
3. Inhale your arms out to the sides, parallel to the floor. Exhale to externally rotate from the top of the humerus bones, where the arms insert into your shoulders. Draw the bottom tips of your shoulder blades toward your spine, widen your collarbones, and broaden your chest.
4. On an inhalation, raise your arms alongside your ears. On an exhalation, root down through your feet.
5. Inhale to lengthen the sides of your waist even more and reach up through the crown of the head. Exhale to firm your arms closer to your ears and midline. Make sure your lower ribs are not splaying out. Keep your gaze at the horizon, your chin level, and your throat soft and open. Hold here for 8 breaths before exhaling the arms down.
Avoid These Mistakes
DON’T let your elbows bend or your arms go wide, which will result in a loss of length in the sides of your waist.
DON’T let your front ribs pop out and your pelvis drop into an anterior tilt, which can create “banana back.” An exaggerated lumbar curve in Upward Salute will cause you to lose the rooting action of your tailbone and decrease the power found in a more streamlined spinal extension.
See also Troubleshoot Your Sun Salute
Find Your Edge
You know you are at your edge when you meet the boundaries of your comfort zone. In order to grow, you need to explore those boundaries with courage. There is an idea in yoga that the heat of an experience is what can transform you; the word that embodies this idea is tapas. Handstand is a pose that serves as the spark that initiates transformation and growth, which stems from a broadening of perspective. When you turn your world upside down, you are pushed to your edge in a way that insists you rediscover your center of balance in order to thrive. When you are inverted, finding and staying tethered to your center and midline take effort, but the combination of a deep, internal focus and a willingness to experiment can be the starting point.
Our Pro Teacher and model
Our Pro Teacher and model Nikki Vilella is a senior teacher at Kula Yoga Project in New York City and owner of Kula Williamsburg in her home borough of Brooklyn. She has trained with Kula founder Schuyler Grant and Kula senior teacher Alison Sinatra; she studies Iyengar with Nikki Costello, Genny Kapuler, and Carrie Owerko, and anatomy with Lauren Haythe. For more, visit kulayoga.com.